It was another smoky summer evening and town was buzzing with activity levels historically reserved for holiday weekends. California fires pushed air quality to you-should-stay-indoors-levels for a third day in a row and many were on edge as a result. Two dads dutifully approached the grocery store, both scowling independently as yet another car rolled through the stop sign at one of the town’s most hectic intersections. The recognition of a familiar face lightened the mood.
“Hey there, great to see you,” the older dad says.
“You too, been a minute!”
“Yeah man, like there’s been a pandemic or something…”
“Haha. What’s new? How’s the family?
“Happy and healthy, all you could ask for. You? Your kid’s what, like two now?”
“Yep – starting preschool in a few weeks. Everybody’s good – got jobs and our health. Had some housing stuff go down but landed on our feet.”
“Glad to hear – Lot of that going around, eh?”
“Yeah, we aren’t the only ones, that’s for sure…”
Knowing looks are exchanged with recognition the conversation could take an entirely different tone should they choose to go down that path. A couple in excessively black athletic wear stroll by. The man talks seemingly to himself through his AirPods while the woman hurries along their small dog on a leash.
“Yeah, no doubt…” says the older dad, redirecting the course, ”You been riding much?”
“More than I should with a full time job and a family. You?”
“Getting out once or twice a week – dad program.”
“Nice, I hear that. Been riding a little bit, but a lot myself.”
“An hour here and there… Pump track on the DJ, quick lift laps on the big bike, and little loops on my new drop bar bike.”
“Haha, nice- I remember those days,” the older dad chuckles, ”What’s the drop bar bike?”
“Kind of like a rigid 29er from 2006 but with drop bars and a dropper post. Been super fun riding it on the local trade routes that were getting dull on the big bike.”
“I bet- you don’t need much for most of the town trails. Been looking to downsize myself.”
“Been out on any big rides this year?” asks the young dad.
“A few early season and hoping to get a couple more before the high country gets shut down. Really just trying to stay focused on family.”
“That’s all that really matters these days, eh? On that note I should get moving.”
“Same, same. Best to you and your ladies.”
“Back at you- see you on the trails!”
“For sure, maybe we’ll actually ride one of these days.”
“I’d like that man, let’s make it happen.”
Two bags of groceries later, the younger dad emerges from the store. A haze lingered but was yielding to a north wind revealing a picturesque evening mountainscape. He found peace and normalcy in his conversation with the older dad, acceptance of this new normal of smoky skies and hour rides. He reminded himself: move always forward, with gratitude for family, community and place.